“The School Innovation Grant allows you to take an idea about what you ‘could only do’ and gives you the money to actually do it.” – Sara Martens, AIC, Northwest Academy of Law
“One of the strengths of the School Innovation Grants program is the interaction and support we have received from our colleagues. Ideas are always great and the Foundation funding is giving us the opportunity to make the ideas a reality.” – Principal Deborah Leto, Mason Elementary School
For the second year in a row, the SLPS Foundation has the opportunity to work with school leaders and classroom teachers to implement creative solutions to some of the hardest-to-move problems in their schools. This program, called the St. Louis Public Schools Foundation School Innovation Grants, is designed to recognize school leadership teams’ creativity and vision, and to serve as a retention tool for inspiring and keeping highly effective school leaders in the district. The grants are supported by Emerson Electric, Boeing, Enterprise Holdings, and Wells Fargo Advisors, and through partnerships with Cortex and CIC St. Louis.
The School Innovation Grants are sourced in the idea that innovative solutions often come from those working on-the-ground and who have direct relationships with the challenges facing their colleagues and students – and, that those innovators often don’t have the resources to pilot an idea that might make a big difference.
The 2015-16 School Innovators implemented projects ranging from outreach to immigrant parents, to journalism programs, to the creation of design labs in unused classrooms, and more, yielding results such as:
- Students who regularly attended Adams Elementary’s Saturday School grew their reading skills an average of 1.62 grade levels over the course of the program.
- Students at Northwest High School analyzed the Ferguson Commission report, applied restorative justice practices instead of traditional disciplinary measures, and held a “Peace Retreat” featuring workshops from key players in the St. Louis social justice movement.
- The school-based leadership development program for teachers at Carver Elementary helped increase retention of effective teachers – 80% of teachers who participated in the first cohort committed to returning to Carver the following year, after having been approached with other offers for employment.
- Students participated regularly in Gateway STEM’s coding club, practiced “design thinking” in a new ‘makerspace’ converted from unused classrooms, and used design thinking to help influence school policies (e.g. cellphone policies, school discipline).
- Through a variety of programs at Patrick Henry Elementary, the number of positive parent-school interactions increased by over 50%. Programs include recognition ceremonies, teacher home-visits, and family science nights.
For 2016-17, ten school teams were awarded funds to implement their innovative projects; like the winners last year, the awarded schools will meet regularly throughout the year to trouble-shoot, share their learning, and build community among educators who value innovation. The funded projects include before-school fitness clubs to increase attendance and decrease behavioral incidents, training school staff in trauma informed practices to increase wellbeing and decrease disciplinary incidents, healthy cooking classes to support positive coping skills, partnerships with private schools to implement a nature-based curriculum, and others. School innovators have access to the CIC co-working spaces @4240, and @CET for the duration of the grant period, to promote potential partnerships with the broader innovation community in St. Louis.